I've always wanted to dive the Caribbean Sea! I finally had the opportunity to while in the Dominican Republic.
Diving near the resort on the Eastern, Atlantic side was not ideal conditions. So Ang and I took a road trip down to Bayahibe on the Southern, Caribbean side of the island country. There, I had a most spectacular, personalized tour of 2 reefs with Go Dive Bayahibe.
In this post, I review my experience diving and visiting this new area of the DR. From pristine beaches with crystal clear blue waters to diverse marine life including a squid encounter (!), now I know where to book my next trip to the Dominican Republic!
Diving & Snorkeling With Go Dive Bayahibe
Ang and I booked an early morning dive and snorkel with Go Dive Bayahibe*. I went with this company because of their great customer service, prices, and personalized tours.
In terms of customer service, I was able to speak over Whatsapp with Iris, a German immigrant, who owns and operates the dive company with her partner. Using Whatsapp was super convenient since I didn't get a SIM card for my stay and was relying on Wi-Fi. Even though local calls were not possible—Whatsapp was perfect.
The price was also the best I found at $139 for my 2 dives. This included the boat ride, all equipment, snacks, water, and photos/video. Ang got to join on the boat and snorkel for just $40 extra.
Normally, I like to spend my tourist dollars with people who are locally from the country or region I visit. Iris expressed a true love and passion for the DR. Despite being a German immigrant, she has been living there for 15 years. Her small, local business is helping to bring in tourists which ultimately contributes to the local economy. This, to me, is the right kind of company to support.
I was able to negotiate with Iris about which reef to see. She was doing a bigger, longer trip out to nearby Saona Island that costs more money the day before. We could choose to go on that trip with other tourists. Or we could choose a couple of reefs closer to shore. We didn't want to spend an entire day out, so a morning couple of dives from the boat were perfect! Plus, I would be diving alone with her!
En Route To Bayahibe
I had booked a car through Alamo for our time in the DR. While the resort offered transportation to/from the airport, I felt it was important to have a car so we could easily escape and explore at any time. This came in handy for our spontaneous road trip to the south shore.
The route to Bayahibe was mostly unremarkable. We could spot some mountains and more interesting scenery far away in the distance. But ultimately, we just drove down highway alongside farms and flatlands.
We drove through a few toll booths on the way which were no more than 2 pesos. I had exchanged $100 USD at the airport anticipating this. But most people don't anticipate needing cash if they travel to a resort in the DR.
Resorts normally accept US dollars as tips. Extra, paid-for services and items (like our fancier wine at dinner) are often tacked onto your bill at check-out. We could pay that with a credit card on the way out. But going off resort required local cash—for tolls, tips, and everything else.
Go Dive Bayahibe is located at the beach on the Cadaques Caribe Resort & Villas property. Their boat launches from this beach. We drove about an hour to get there and met Iris out at the parking lot. She walked us to the beach from there. At the beach, the first thing I could not take my eyes off of was the water.
Holy. Shit. So this is the Caribbean!
After some brief paperwork, we got suited up and then walked over to the dock where the boat waited for us. On the way to the dock, Iris acknowledged one of the Dominican workers at the resort who chuckled and smiled with her. To me, this was another indicator that her and her business are well respected by locals. Yay!
Iris, Ang, and I boarded the dive boat and we took off onto the clear, blue waters.
I really enjoyed getting to know Iris on the way out to our first dive site. Iris has a true love for diving and for the DR. She was also an excellent guide.
We visited 2 separate dive sites: Viva Shallows and Coco Reef. Viva Shallows was really fun because the site has a few cannons and cannon balls there to play with. Iris made this a fun experience by guiding me to try to lift the cannon balls and swimming them over to the cannons.
The first ball was way too heavy—which made me laugh underwater. But the next one was light enough to pretend to put into a nearby cannon. This made for a really fun series of photographs which she took of me:
In fact, Iris took photos of me and the things we saw together for the whole trip!
I love taking photos and video of what I see with my own camera. It's also nice to have someone else take photos of me for a change! It had been a while since I had a guide who offered to do that—and for no extra charge!
Iris even put together a little video of our dives together:
Coco reef was a great dive because they have a coral garden there. Iris explained that a marine organization grows new coral at this site and is working to replant them around the Bayahibe area.
This is great for restoration of reefs and for local economies.
As we dove together, Iris was excellent at spotting all types of critters and creatures from small to large. Guides typically point things out to me on other tours I've been on. But this felt extra special because she and I were one-on-one.
Everything she found, she made sure to get my attention and show me. And she went at a slow moving, exploratory pace. Of course, this was partially because we were diving at fairly shallow depths (max 12 meters) so there wasn't any urgency to resurface early. Both dives were over 70 minutes!
I felt like we covered and saw everything and that's what you want in a dive and a dive guide.
Ang unfortunately got rained on between snorkel sessions. A passing tropical rain cloud came through and blasted her and the captain. She was a good sport about it, though—she enjoyed being out on the water, regardless!
Ang also mentioned that the snorkeling was not the best. While she could see bottom, there were few fish that came up close enough to her at the surface. And the sea floor was a little too far down for her to see all the colors and marine life. So this may not be the ideal trip for a snorkeler.
But it was still a beautiful day, a nice boat ride, and it was good to have this change of scenery from the resort!
Other travelers might opt to find a place where everyone can snorkel together and see more from the surface.
My Dive Highlights
I was so happy to experience this beautiful water both above water and underwater! The visibility on both dives was outstanding. It totally made up for the dirty water I experienced earlier in the summer in South Africa (more on that in a future post!).
The following is some of the video footage I took while diving at both Viva Shallows and Coco Reef near Bayahibe:
While I have lots of photos to share from both dive sites, too, I want to specifically highlight Coco Reef. This was the site where we spotted 4 squid! They were so, so cool!
The only time I ever encountered squid was at night while snorkeling in the Florida Keys. And that was only one squid that was quite far away from me when I saw it.
Instead, these 4 stuck around for a long time and they were totally fine with us following right up behind them. They'd even flutter around and move between us at times.
We photographed them for about 5 minutes and later on in the dive we saw they were still hanging out.
Here's a video I put together featuring just the squid because they are so cute and so fun!
And now for some photographic highlights from both dives:
Post-Dive Beach Swimming
When we got back from our dive, Ang and I wanted nothing more than to simply enjoy the beautiful water here. We knew we wouldn't have this when we returned to the resort. So we soaked in as much of it as we could before departing for lunch.
The sand here was nice and clean.
And that water. Ahhhh—that water! I had not seen water that color in so long. It was revitalizing!
Lunch In Los Melones
After giving Iris a ride down the road, we continued into town for some lunch. She had recommended we find a place in Los Melones. It was actually a little difficult to find places that were open. The place we found was next to the launch/landing area for boats taking tourists to nearby Saona Island.
One look at these boats and I was very thankful we didn't bother with that trip. So many people!
The people watching was great entertainment. We watched as we ate off some surf boards at Chiky Blu Restaurant.
There were other sights to see and things to in the area around Bayahibe. But Ang and I had an all-inclusive resort to get back to! We had a fun adventure to see a different part of the DR. Now it was time to go back. We had less than 24 hours left to enjoy the rest of our resort experience—including Ang's birthday celebrations!
This post wraps up our short trip to the Dominican Republic. I intend to return one day and write more about this great country. I'm hoping that the next time I go, I have a chance to spend more time on the Caribbean side. Perhaps I will find a resort I like down there—or do something a little more adventurous and live locally via Airbnb or couchsurfing. We'll see!
In the meantime, I have so much more to share about my travels to Africa earlier this past summer. I left off on my final night in Namibia. Now it's time to share my experiences in South Africa! Stay tuned...
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